the product naming blog

June 6, 2012

End of an Era: Sara Lee Brand Naming Changes to Hillshire Brands

After renaming their international coffee and tea division D.E. Master Blenders 1753, Sara Lee has now renamed its North American business Hillshire Brands Co., which will trade on the NYSE as HSH.

The name comes from the Hillshire Farm brand that was acquired in 1971, which Sara Lee says represents the company's "ambitions for growing our portfolio of iconic brands in the future."

Meanwhile, the name Sara Lee will be maintained for the food service division as Sara Lee Foodservice.

As one would expect, the company will have a new visual identity for its "meat-centric brand and snack solutions."

Obviously the Sara Lee name meant "bakery" to many people, but the Hillshire Brands portfolio includes meat brands, such as Jummy Dean, Ball Park, Hillshire Farm and State Fair as well as two "artisan" brands: Aidells and Gallo.

Hillshire Farm was established in Wisconsin in 1934 by Friedrich (Fritz) Bernegger in New London, just northwest of Appleton. The name still stands for "quality, integrity and superior taste" according to Sara Lee.

This is not the first time Sara Lee has embraced a name change. The Sara Lee name dates back to 1939, but the name itself was changed in 1954 to Consolidated Foods, only to switch back in 1985 to Sara Lee.

I think this marks the beginning of the end for the Sara Lee name as we know it, ushering in a far more streamlined approach to a greatly transformed company. Yet, I am glad the Sara Lee name will remain in some capacity even if I am not expecting to see it on retail shelves anymore.

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May 21, 2012

Brand Naming Public Bikes is OK, But is the Grand Canyon Next?

CitiBikesSharing.jpgThe interesting piece by Steve Smith in the NY Daily News praising the brand naming of New York's bike sharing efforts via the Citi Bike program is going to bring up the old argument over whether or not everything is up for grabs when it comes to brand naming.

Smith's point is that this is another "new way for private dollars to help make possible a program with important public benefits."

Will parks and museums be the next to see privatization? Millions of people visit these places each year, and let's face it, it's hard to shock a New Yorker.

The bottom line, according to Smith, is that "Public services are expensive. Taxpayers are stretched. Let companies be part of the solution."

Let's also recall that New York is considering the move towards making parking meters a private business, and this of course would lead to ads and branding meters.

The problem is that once you privatize a space (like a parking space, or a library or a park), the state may still need to be able to move that space, or convert it to something else, should the need arise. And the company that sponsors it now gets a say.

SchoolSponsorhsip.pngCorporate naming in schools is also tricky, according to a very recent New York Times opinion piece by Tom Friedman.

Friedman argues that "When public schools are plastered with commercial advertising, they teach students to be consumers rather than citizens."

OK, sure. But schools already use so many brand name products that it seems silly to ban brand naming from, say, the sides of buses or the gym. To reword Smith, the cost of education is expensive. Parents are stretched. Let companies be part of the solution.

A public park may get the nod from a brand, but as Meghan Dunn argued a few years ago in the LA Times, I don't think the Grand Canyon will be renamed Gap Gulch anytime soon.

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May 17, 2012

Australia Wangles a Naming and Branding Blooper

car.pngEvery so often I like to return to one of the biggest dangers in the world of naming and branding, and that's what happens when your brand becomes lost in translation.

It seems a company from down under called Wyngle found that their name really wasn't trusted all that much by Americans as it sounds too much like "wangle." So they are now named

The article, Five business rebrands that got lost in translation, mentions four other notorious failures, including Peugeot's ill-fated attempt to move into the Chinese market - the Chinese translation of Peugeot is "Biao zhi," which sounds like the Chinese slang term for "prostitute."

Other notable faux pas include Pepsi's slogan "Come alive with the Pepsi Generation" which in Taiwanese translates to "Pepsi will bring your ancestors back from the dead." And in China the KFC mantra "finger licking good" translates to "eat your fingers off."

But of course the world is littered with terrible names, and they just keep coming. Vauxhall's new car will be called "Adam," leading one source to wonder "Couldn't Vauxhall have done better?"


And don't forget about the Netflix, SyFy, iSnack 2.0 and AOL naming debacles.

Let's just hope companies learn from these brand naming faux pas.

We have compiled a list of brand naming faux pas you may find helpful.

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May 16, 2012

Fifth and Pacific Company Naming for Liz Claiborne Now Official

FifthandPacific.jpgIt's now official - Liz Claiborne Inc. will now be named Fifth & Pacific Companies Inc.

Their focus will be on the brands Juicy Coutre, Lucky Brand and kate spade, thus officially saying "goodbye to the iconic Liz Claiborne name."

The company name change news has been public since January when the Liz Claiborne name was sold to JC Penney Co..

This strategic move was made to accommodate their three lifestyle brands, and the name change took official effect yesterday.

The company name itself is an obvious reference to both California and New York, making the name far more inclusive than the Liz Claiborne name.

In a recent video about the name change, CEO Bill McComb points out that that the new name "telegraphs who we are" to both American and, importantly, European and Asian consumers.

McComb also pointed out that "we wanted a name that came out of the consumer vernacular, not one that sounded like a re-coined or invented word."

The name had to encompass the three flagship brands as "Juicy was built bicoastally, Lucky was always an LA brand, and kate spade is a quintessentially New York brand." More than that, they "didn't want it to sound like a hedge fund, a Silicon Valley high-tech company or a law firm."

He points out that there is a great deal riding on the name, as "our focus is on growing domestically and tapping the shores of Asia and Europe in a big way. This name change doesn't impact those moves because we've already been making them, but Fifth & Pacific sounds and feels like a lifestyle company, which is what we are."

I like the thinking behind this name.

The move towards being a "lifestyle brand" explains why the Liz Claiborne name had to go. So, it's adieu to Liz Claiborne and hello Fifth & Pacific.

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May 8, 2012

Will New iPhone Go the Way of iPad Product Naming?

domain_img.pngThe chatter on the blogosphere is heating up about what the new iPhone will be called, not least since the "New iPad" was such a shocker.

Will it be "The iPhone" or "The Next iPhone" or how about the "iPhone 5"? There are a few good reasons why we might see an iPhone 5, because Apple has filed a claim with the World Intellectual Property Office for

Says Ross Newman of Business 2 Community:

Interestingly, Apple didn't get full control of the domain until nearly a year after that device launched. And guess what happened with Apple gained full control two weeks after the release of the iPhone 4S because that domain was forwarding visitors to pornography sites! Talk about a wrong turn.

iPhone 5 is an easier name than whatever might follow iPhone 4S, and the new iPhone will be revamped enough - thinner with a taller display - to warrant a new name, he adds.

Even business analysts are looking at this preemptive move for the domain name as proof that the iPhone 5 name is coming out.


Still, this just might be Apple trying to take control of the phone's name in the "virtual world" as well as gain SEO ranking. Apple does not want that site to come up when people search for the new phone... unless they own it.

The new iPhone 5 launch will be huge, no matter what, but it is just too early to say if the company is going to drop the nomenclature for the iPhone brand name the way they have with the iPad.

Given the obsession Apple has with brand congruence, I would not be surprised if we did see the introduction of a device called The New iPhone.

Apple is just too secretive about its brand naming to let the cat out of the bag by grabbing this site long in advance.

But maybe not.

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